Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawmakers look at 'embodied carbon' reductions to help achieve Massachusetts' 2050 climate goals

Climate activists demonstrate in the Massachusetts State House chambers in 2023 file photo.
Sam Doran
State House News Service
Climate activists demonstrate in the Massachusetts State House chambers in 2023 file photo.

Massachusetts lawmakers believe reducing embodied carbon will go a long way towards hitting the state's 2050 climate goals.

This month, some climate activists were arrested following protests in the Statehouse, demanding a stop to new fossil fuel projects. Policy dealing with climate change and the environment was on the minds of lawmakers last week, as Massachusetts has net zero carbon emissions goals to meet by 2050. Chris Lisinski from the State House News Service says lawmakers identified a source of carbon that they want to target.

Chris Lisinksi, SHNS: Yeah, some new legislation that could find its way into the portfolio of action, targets what's referred to as embodied carbon. Activists say that carbon... accounts for between 11 to 23% of greenhouse gas emissions across the globe annually, but rarely gets the same kind of attention that fossil fuel infrastructure or transportation emissions get. So, there's legislation being filed to try and formulate a more deliberate strategic state response to this source of emissions.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: So, 2050 is 27 years off. Are lawmakers fueled by a sense of urgency in developing sustainable and equitable solutions?

Yes, and we should note that while 2050 is the target for net zero, there are significant interim targets along the way, effectively in 5- or 10-year increments. We have to hit a percentage of greenhouse gas emission reductions, getting us up to net zero eventually.

I believe at a different hearing last week, we heard someone point out that to meet that goal, we'll need to increase the amount of offshore wind capacity tenfold or something to that effect beyond what the state has recently procured. So, there is certainly a growing sense of pressure now that these targets are in place, to do more to get us to them.

There is a lot of work remaining on climate change policy. But as I understand it, a joint committee in the legislature is spending some of its energy on a power sharing battle. What gives?

Yeah, I would think you can even say they're spending a lot of energy on a power sharing battle over really basic process stuff. This committee, the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, chaired by Representative Jeff Roy of Franklin, and Senator Mike Barrett of Lexington, is in a feud right now because they say they cannot agree on how they should handle their hearings for the 2023-2024 lawmaking session.

Roy wants to move ahead, scheduling them and says that Barrett is not accommodating his desire until they finalize joint rules governing how the committee works. It's all really in the weeds process, fighting stuff, that now seems to be holding up the approach that very important committee is going to take to some of the most significant legislation Beacon Hill is considering the session.

So, the big political news last week was the downfallof U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who resigned as Department of Justice watchdogs released scathing reports that she flouted ethics rules and even lied under oath. Democrats in the state, including Sen. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, strongly supported her getting the position. Any fallout from this news on the state level?

There are certainly a lot of scrutiny aimed at Democrats like Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, given the amount of muscle that they put into securing Rollins's confirmation through a divided Senate. You know, I don't think it's likely that there's going to be too many lasting consequences on people like Warren and Markey.

But for right now, they are certainly being asked to answer some tough questions, as is Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who really played a key role in this report and was shown to have been coordinating with Rollins in an attempt to defeat a political rival.

And finally, Chris, on the campaign trail last year, Gov. Maura Healey promised to make housing a priority. Healey last week named former Worcester city manager Ed Augustus to address the state's housing affordability and availability crisis. Chris, when does he start and what's likely to be Augustus' early focus?

Well, Augustus is going to start as standalone housing Secretary on June 1st, the day after the Executive Office of Housingand Economic Development formally splits into a housing office, and an economic development office. This is a plan that Healey's been pushing since the campaign trail finally about to take effect.

One thing that Healey said last week that is going to be a big focus for Ed Augustus is working with cities and towns, getting out and meeting with leaders at the local level to try and focus on housing development. So much of that process deals with local zoning, local permits. So, it seems he's really going to be a point person trying to get more projects up and off the ground across the state.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.